Rise of the Planet of the Apes
Planet of the Apes is one of my all-time favourite science fiction movies, so when I heard that they were going to try to restart the series again, I was worried. After all, the 2001 remake was a travesty, and other remakes and prequels these days usually just make things worse, like Clash of the Titans or X-Men Origins; Wolverine. However,this prequel ended up become a movie that satisfied the inner Apes fan inside of me.
The back story is handled really well here as we watch the story of a Scientist trying a new brain function drug on chimps, only to have it work incredibly well on an orphan chimp named Caesar, whom he takes home to raise as his own. The explanation for the increasing intelligence of these apes is far more convincing than Escape from the Planet of the Apes’ idea that two apes went back in time to the present and left their baby here. This film also explains the devolution of the human race, albeit in a loose end-ish way.
There are a lot of nods to the original film, including references to names and even a news story in the background about astronauts lost in space. They’re very minute and will be missed if you blink, but I like that they are there anyways. I am really disappointed that they couldn’t resist the urge to use the most famous line from the first film “Get your stinking paws off me you damn dirty ape!” That was definitely a facepalm moment. But it was soon forgotten by the great and shocking moment which immediately follows.
But what really works well here is the emotional core of the film, surprisingly enough. James Franco plays the scientist who takes Caesar home to care for him, and John Lithgow plays his father whose Alzheimer’s disease Franco is trying to cure. The way Caesar becomes a part of their family is really quite touching, and as things get serious, these relationships add a lot of depth to Caesar’s actions.
As important as the human characters are, Caesar the chimp is really the star of this film, played in motion capture by Andy Serkis. Caesar has his own personality which is both likable and touching. And as the movie continues and we start to see things through his point of view, we understand his revolution in the final act. Even the other apes in the film are given their own distinct personalities as well. But make no mistake, this is Caesar’s movie.
This is one really solid effort for a summer blockbuster based on an old classic. It respects the original while being distinct in and of itself. The action near the end is great, with some haunting visuals such as the one with the apes holding spears on the roof. The CG animation of the apes is very, very good. But its the story and the relationship between Caesar and the human characters which gives this film its weight and elevates it from a simple sci-fi action movie. Great stuff.